Now’s the time when it’s much cooler, and while everything is so beautifully green, to explore the back roads a couple of hours out of Brisbane.
The film of dust which settles over your car is a small price to pay for the pleasures of ascending into Bellthorpe State Forest on a winding dirt road, and following the switchback country lane east through picture-book scenery eastwards towards Maleny.
The gravel crunches under tyres as you stop in the woodland’s shade. Switch off the engine, get out and take some moments to appreciate the entrancing forest, the peace, the occasional call of a bird.
In Bellthorpe, the massive grey trunks of blue gums soar high to the canopy. Below, the ground is a sunshine-patterned garden of brackens and ferns, and piccabeen palms punctuate the scene.
Just getting to this beautiful place is what Sunday drives are all about.
We’ve done this trip quite a few times and each time we leave different times. Some of the photos reflect the differences.
We always like to head off early, heading out of Brisbane for Samford, and checking for bargains at the Ferny Grove Station market. Then head off to Dayboro, were we come across the weekend cyclists are out on their long-distance rides, so watch out for them.
Dayboro is just over 40km from Brisbane, has a small Sunday market along the pavement in the main street, note the selection of home-baked cakes.
We then take the hill route to Mount Mee, sometimes calling in at the impressive cafe in the vaulted-roof pole house at Ocean View Winery. Further on, we always stretch our legs at the Dahmpongah Lookout, with its wide view over pastures and the distant spires of the Glasshouse Mountains from the southwest.
We then move onto Woodford, and on a Sunday morning it’s busy with pleasure drivers, motorbike tourers and locals. On the first and third Sunday of every month, volunteers offer steam train rides on the Durundur Railway. The Australian Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Society has an assortment of mining and cane trains to run on its “two foot” gauge line. Passengers sit in wagons once used to move bagged sugar to the port for the six-minute run to Storey Brook station, where cottage herb gardens are the attraction.
Heading northwest on D’Aguilar Highway, ignore the next right turn to Beerwah, but three or four kilometres further on, take the next right to Stony Creek.
This little road climbs north up into the Conondale Range, but a short way in, take the right turn and drive 4km into Bellthorpe Forest Reserve. At road’s end is Stony Creek recreation reserve, with picnic tables, toilet block and a short walk to a pool fed by the creek. The running creek is a pleasant place to sit and cool your feet, and the pool is shallow but inviting for a cool-off.
Back on the road to the Conondales, the bitumen runs out as the road climbs into state forest. There’s an expeditionary element to the drive because sign posts are few and far between. High up, there’s a junction. Turn right on the narrow West Bellthorpe Rd, a graded gravel route which follows a hogsback, with forest on one side and dairy cattle meadows on the other.
Here are glimpses of the Glasshouse Mountains from the northwest. You’re in the Mary River catchment, back on a ribbon of bitumen and heading through Booroobin in very picturesque hill country. You emerge on the Woodford-Maleny Rd. Turn left, then right on the Maleny-Kenilworth highway and ease down into the charming town, round about lunchtime.
Maleny has an interesting mix of shops and a great choice of places to eat. The Big Byte Cafe has an internet corner and a gallery of black and white photographs of pop music stars well worth checking out.
No visit to Maleny is complete without a side expedition through more attractive landscapes down to Baroon Pocket Dam.
This is the Sunshine Coast’s drinking water supply, a forest-fringed lake covering 380ha. The Lake Baroon Freshwater Fish Stocking Association has been introducing Mary River cod, golden perch and Australian bass fingerlings in large quantities since at least 1989, so it might be worthwhile taking your rod.
For the best Glasshouse Mountain views, when heading back towards Brisbane, retrace your route on to the Maleny-Woodford road and follow the Blackall Range Tourist Drive signs towards Mary Cairncross Park on Mountain View Rd.
A kilometre along, there’s ample parking space at McCarthey’s Lookout, commanding a fabulous view over the Glasshouse Mountain caldera from the northeast.
A couple of kilometres further on, at another good mountain viewing spot, Mary Cairncross Park is a hugely popular picnic ground. Abutting dense rainforest, the open grassed area is skirted by a path. Timber benches have been provided along this Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Walk, complete with a bamboo trellis on which vines essential in the lives of the butterfly are being cultivated.
Mountain View Rd leads back on to the busier Landsborough Rd down the range towards the coast. At Landsborough, follow the old Pacific Highway south. On this drive, there are plenty of excuses for another stop: Australia Zoo, roadside shops selling locally grown pineapples, macadamia nuts, fruit and vegetables and even a fisho’s van. And suddenly, you’re back on the motorway, vying with the traffic, which on a Sunday afternoon is probably slowing down well ahead of the Bribie turnoff.
Things to do in Maleny
Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World.
Meander through some of the most exquisite gardens in Queensland featuring a panorama of waterfalls, ponds and colourful plantings, idyllic rainforest surroundings and views of the spectacular Glass House Mountains at Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World. Bring a picnic to enjoy by one of the many lakes or lounge under a tree with a good book and soak up the peace and serenity.
Baroon Pocket Dam.
Baroon Pocket Dam is a picturesque lake tucked away between Montville and Maleny. The dam offers a range of fantastic recreational facilities and you could easily spend the whole day exploring the shores and waterways. There are picnic tables, free barbecues and playgrounds for the kids, making it the ideal spot for a get together with family or friends. Take a dip in the calm waters, kayak the lake and its tributaries or simply cast your rod and wait for the Australian Bass to bite.
Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.
Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is 55 acres of subtropical rainforest overlooking the Glass House Mountains. A remnant of the rainforests that once covered the Blackall Range, the Reserve is a living museum of diverse plant and animal life. There are several tranquil walking tracks, boardwalks and viewing platforms where you can soak up the natural beauty and read information about various species.
Leave your vehicle in the car park on the banks of the Obi Obi Creek and take a short, level walk downstream to Gardners Falls, a hidden gem in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. You’ll pass a number of shallow rock pools which are ideal for smaller children who just want to splash about. Follow the bubbling waters downstream where the pools increase in size and enjoy a freshwater swim in the largest pool underneath the falls
The Cheese Circuit.
A visit to Maleny Dairies will not only prove that milk comes from cows (not cartons) but that it tastes so good! The milk, yoghurt and ice cream can be tasted and bought at the farm shop. You can also join a farm tour, ride a tractor and see the cows milked at 3 pm. Once you’ve tasted the raw goods, head to Maleny Cheese, where you’ll see the cheesemakers in action and enjoy tastings in the café and shop.
Brews and Views.
Stop in at Maleny Mountain Wines to sample a range of reds, whites, fortified and dessert wines from Australia and around the world. The friendly staff will find the perfect wine for your palate or the best drop for your celebration, picnic or BYO dining. If you prefer beer, make a pit stop at Brouhaha Brewery.